In his remarkable sports book, Knocking on Heaven’s Door (University of Massachusetts Press), Marty Dobrow ’83 explores the “anguish of almost” as he examines the lives of six minor league baseball players who are so close to something they want so much, something they have always wanted, but something they still might not get. What links them together, aside from their common goal of wanting to play on a major league team, is that they are all represented by the same team of agents whose own aspirations parallel those of the players they represent.
The book explores the contradictory culture of the minors. On the one hand, nothing could be more wholesome or family friendly: the kitschy mascots, the hokey promotions, the Little Leaguers hanging over the railing to get autographs from earnest young players. On the other hand, it a savagely competitive world where the success of a teammate—if he plays the same position that you do—is a bad thing, while his injury represents good news.
This is an intimate baseball book that focuses not just on the players, but on the wives, girlfriends, and family members who have latched onto a difficult dream. The story begins during spring training in 2005 and ends in the fall of 2008, followed by a brief epilogue that updates each player’s fortunes through the 2009 season. Along the way Dobrow offers a revealing, intimate look at life in minor league baseball: the relentless tedium of its itinerant routines and daily rituals; the lure of performance-enhancing drugs as a means of gaining a competitive edge; and the role of agents in negotiating each player’s failures as well as his successes.
In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called the book, “A beautifully written, meticulously orchestrated account of the families, common agents, notable triumphs, and devastating failures of half a dozen talented young men who want to play in the Major Leagues.”
The Sports Literature Association said the book “gives us the rarest of sport literature: the true baseball story…that tells us the truth about the game without sugar-coating its unpleasantries or removing its warts—while somehow still managing to make us love it all the more.”
The author will be reading at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse on 11th Street in Manhattan.